The workers’ compensation system is designed to be helpful to injured employees and those who employ them, providing cash benefits and medical care cost coverage for workers who are hurt while doing their jobs. However, when an injured employee alleges that their injury came about due to serious and willful misconduct on their employer’s part, a host of legal issues can arise and the employer’s reputation is on the line right from the start.
California LC Section 4553 states that an employer whose serious and willful misconduct resulted in a worker’s on-the-job injuries can be held legally responsible—or liable—for those injuries in court. Employers found liable for employee injuries under this law can face severe financial penalties that cannot be shifted to other sources (such as insurance carriers).
By state law, any employer liable for their worker’s injury under LC Section 4553 can be compelled to pay an amount equal to half of the employee’s total workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on the extent of the injuries, this amount could add up quickly, resulting in serious financial strain and possibly the prospect of dissolution of the company for the employer. These financial penalties are set in stone—that is, a judge cannot make discretionary changes to the dollar amount to be paid out based on a unique set of circumstances. Either an employer is liable and must pay half the value of all benefits, or they are not liable and pay nothing.
In some situations, it can be more beneficial for an employer to reach a settlement with an injured employee rather than going to trial. Because of the “all-or-nothing” nature of the serious and willful misconduct labor law, employers who would be forced to pay out large sums may be better off negotiating a settlement amount rather than going to trial and risking being found liable and being compelled to pay a higher amount. In cases where the allegations are flimsy, however, and where the employer is unlikely to be found liable, going to trial with a good defense attorney by your side can work out in the employer’s favor. In short, settling when an injured employee is likely to win is for the best, but when the employer is clearly not liable, going to trial may be the wisest course of action.
If your employee or former employee is claiming that you are liable for their injuries due to misconduct on your part and you want to discuss your case with a serious and willful misconduct defense attorney in Riverside, the legal team at Sacks & Zolonz, LLP are available for a consultation. We understand how allegations of misconduct can smear your company’s reputation, and we can advocate for you and your business in court, keeping you informed every step along the way. Contact us today for a case assessment.